Born in the enchanting city of Paris and moving back to her hometown of Kuwait only a few years after, twenty-three year-old Tamara Quaddoumi found herself constantly surrounded by the arts. Morning drives to school meant more time to sing along with her mom, though she barely understood the lyrics, to the sounds of The Bee Gees, The Beatles, and Carol King. Early memories of her Scottish grandmother humming tunes from the 1950s, where Tamara would also be an active participant, nourished this songbird’s appetite for music.
As a child, Tamara’s extracurricular activities shaped how she perceives her music and performing arts career as an adult. From competing on a regional level as an expertly trained figure skater, to ballet dancing, horseback riding, to performing with her school’s choir and theater groups, Tamara’s interests as a young girl utilized all of her creative talents and fueled her desire to enter the field of performing arts. The age of thirteen saw Tamara experience a crossroads: Either embark on a full-scale figure skating career, where she had conquered her ability to perform on ice, or live the life of a normal teenager and continue her school years at The American School of Kuwait. Choosing the latter, she found an environment at ASK that nurtured her love for both music and theater. Tamara’s college career further exposed her to the many facets of the realm of performing arts, where she first started at the Drama Centre at London’s Central Saint Martins, followed by a year where she concentrated on events production at the London College of Communication and also completed a semester at Boston’s Berklee College of Music. All of these experiences honed her skills even more, allowing Tamara to confidently apply all of her talents, both innate and learned, in the performing arts field. Today we find the artist in a constant state of evolution, where Tamara usually finds herself traveling between the creative scenes of Beirut and Kuwait while finalizing her studies in London.
How did your musical journey begin?
I started playing piano by the age of five, and I practiced for a few hours on a daily basis. It was like waking up everyday to eat. Music fueled me. I started performing on stage by the age of nine singing 1940s French cabaret songs by Piaf and Gréco and that’s where it took off. I moved to ASK, which had a proper decent choir that I auditioned for and from then on, I was taken under my conductor’s wings. I was involved in all three of the school’s choirs, traveled to schools around the region for theater and music and participated in every performance I could find up until I graduated.
Do you write your own music/lyrics?
I do write my own music and lyrics but there is nothing that I feel ready to showcase yet. The single “Bruised” by Slime Music, featuring myself, is the only officially released track in London that was showcased two years ago now. My music is a work in progress for now, much like a painting, where the hardest part is knowing when to put your brush down.
Who or what inspires you to write your music and lyrics?
There are many beautiful unique characters I’ve encountered in my life. Some of which I know better than myself and others are complete strangers who could be walking on the street. Leonard Cohen, Bob Dylan, and Bukowski influence my writings very much among many others.
Can you tell us about your involvement with the theater? How did it first happen?
I started off with musical theater since music was my comfort zone. It felt natural to me to act what you were singing. Other than school musicals and plays, I was finally old enough to take part of Kuwait Little Theaters productions. Being the only student within the production was an excellent experience, as I worked with a large, mature cast. I was graduating from high school that year and auditioned to one of the top drama schools in Europe. I thought, if this was a field I wanted to dive into, then why not plunge myself into the heart of theater and its stage, Shakespeare.
Drama school training is very hardcore. You work 12 hours a day in the institute, practically living there, taking up subjects like history, psychology, movement psychology, lots of yoga to unwind, learning about all religions and cultures, constantly reading, researching and absorbing the drama culture in large doses. They only took 10 girls and 10 boys and I was lucky and thankful to get to attend drama school at Central Saint Martins in London. This move definitely opened many doors for me.
What do you love the most about being on stage?
What I love the most is the nothingness that surrounds you when you’re in tune with your character. Everything flows so naturally when you’ve accomplished molding yourself into a character you’re growing into and making their words your own. Successfully building that relationship within yourself and your audience makes the nature of story telling the most inexplicable feeling of fulfilment. It is very hard explaining to someone that you enjoy being everyone but yourself on stage, but I guess that’s the feeling we love. We hide behind many masks.
In your opinion, what is the hardest challenge that an emerging artist would face when embarking on a musical career?
The hardest challenge would be to never give up, as clichéd as that might sound. This is a very psychologically, physically and mentally exhausting industry and it’s not just about your talent, looks, hard work, and commitment. You might have all of the above but at the end of the day, it’s all about luck. You must learn to be open to A LOT of criticism and let-downs from people working around you. You will be rejected many times, but it’s not a bad thing. You must be open to your work evolving as you go. You are constantly tested to see how easy you could be knocked down and you need to be able to see through that. And once you accomplish that, which is much harder then it sounds, then nothing is stopping you. You allow yourself to grow, but to always grow as yourself in a healthy manner. Ups and downs are healthy, and that is a form of inspiration that builds your journey. And when you look back, you learn to embrace and find beauty in every moment its put you through because it’s worth everything. And if you can’t do that, then it’s not for you.
Do you feel that music and theater should always serve a specific purpose? If so, what do you think that purpose should be?
When you listen to a song or watch a movie you naturally relate it to a situation in which you feel that you’re in at that moment in time. You alter the story of that movie or song to feel like “this is exactly what I’m going through right now”. Why do we do that? Because music, art, theater and film are there to reassure us that we are not the only ones who feel this way, that there are other people who are in our situation. And because it’s relatable, it eases the feeling of emotional survival. The purpose should always be an awakening. Whether historical, political, or the genuine awakening it might be, that is up to the artists all around us.
What were some of your most recent projects?
The last musical project I performed in was around April in Kuwait with local artist Zahed Sultan. I worked alongside many talented musicians who flew in and brought his album, Eye Am Sound, to life at the Contemporary Art Platform.
My last theater project was in London around the month of June performing at the Rose Theater in Kingston bringing one of Chekov’s classic plays, Three Sisters, to life for two nights.
Are you working on anything at the moment?
I am working on my EP at the moment in London along with many side projects that are slowly emerging. We’re looking to record in Paris around December of this year.
What would you like to accomplish in the future?
I would like to open up the theater and musical world within our region. Kuwait has so much potential and I believe that we need more exposure. It will take time but this emergent artistic movement makes me very happy. We just need guidance and more people to support what the arts truly bring to our community. We are all storytellers; we just need someone to listen.
You can follow Tamara Quaddoumi on Instagram @Tammyque.